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Notre Dame's Brian Kelly looks forward to Fenway trip

SOUTH BEND – Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly couldn't be happier about the chance to bring his team to the home of his favorite baseball team.

And it showed Saturday before he started talking about the No. 25 Irish (8-4) getting ready to play Rutgers (6-6) in the Pinstripe Bowl on Dec. 28 in Yankee Stadium.

"Isn't that awesome? That was probably the highlight of the press conference for me," Kelly said of athletic director Jack Swarbrick's Friday press conference when Notre Dame's schedule for the next three seasons was unveiled. "Finally being able to talk about the Fenway deal."

Kelly, who was born in Everett, Mass., and raised in Chelsea, Mass., and is a Red Sox fan, will bring Notre Dame to play Boston College on Nov. 21, 2015, in Fenway Park. He even joked that completing this Shamrock Series game, which is an Irish home game that is played off-campus each season, was why his contract extension wasn't announced until after Notre Dame won its home opener this season over Temple.

"The reason why that wasn't signed was the Fenway deal," Kelly said. "It was being negotiated, hard negotiators in Boston. When we were finally able to get my family in the Green Monster seats, I was able to sign the contract."

While Kelly can joke about Fenway being tied to his contract, he also knows the schedule Notre Dame will face over the next three seasons is no laughing matter.

But he also sees the Irish's future schedules as being strong enough for the program to be able to make a case to be part of the College Football Playoff each season.

"There's no question it's a challenging schedule," Kelly said. "I knew coming in we were going to have a challenging schedule, especially as an independent. We can't be left with questions about our schedule as an independent. We're going to have to play a notch above a conference-scheduling team.

"It's a challenging schedule, but I think it's certainly going to be one where it's going to help us if you look at the strength of schedule index. If they're truly going to pay attention to that, I think it helps us in the long run."

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